The Hill reported on a hearing in Washington on Capitol Hill on 21st May to discuss the consequences of the US ‘conflict minerals’ law. Lawmakers and witnesses discussed the unintended consequences impacting central Africa, noting that while the provision was designed to rid U.S. supply chains of conflict affected resources in an effort to dry up demand and decrease the violence, the resulting de facto embargo of the minerals has spilled over into legitimate trade and has further imperiled the Congolese economy, while also proving burdensome on American companies. Witnesses included GOP members of the House International Monetary Policy and Trade subcommittee, US-African policy experts and Government Representatives.

Mvemba Dizolele, a visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution said it is not the place of the SEC to promulgate rules that impact the livelihood of millions of people. While Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.) noted that the provision “has only led to more violence in the region.” This was echoed by the writer David Aronson who submitted that “People with very little to begin with are now dealing with less.”

The SEC was not represented at the hearing and Democrats on the panel did not take a firm position on the provision. It did, however find support from one witness, Sophia Pickles of the non-governmental group Global Witness, who said the conflict mineral rule represents an important milestone on the path toward increased supply chain transparency.

The iTSCi Programme is currently allowing conflict-free minerals to access responsible international markets from Katanga, Maniema and South Kivu in the DRC, as well as from Rwanda. Lack of end buyers for metal produced from other parts of the Kivu Provinces in DRC make it difficult for the Programme to expand further into those areas where the de-facto embargo prevails.

A webcast and statements of witnesses from the hearing can be found here.